You are an intelligent grown-up. What do you do to maintain your health? Perhaps you try to eat proper foods – vegetables, fruits, a few grains and the proper proteins. And you have learned to avoid foods which are bad for you. There are the usual things of which we are told not to over-indulge. And then there are those foods which are a problem for you personally – dairy products, sweets, etc. And perhaps to make sure you are getting what you need, you take vitamins and special minerals. You try to get enough exercise – the right kind of exercise. You also have learned to get regular medical check-ups – dental, vision, cardiovascular. But of course, your primary source for good health is your trust in the Lord. Only He, who created the heart, can guarantee that your heart stays heathy. And even perfect physical health can be cut short by a car accident. We depend on Jehovah to keeps us safe and healthy. But of course, He still wants us to do our part – eat properly and take care of the body He has given us.
Why is it that we should consult the medical experts when it appears that we have a problem? Isn’t it because we don’t know all the potential diseases which can afflict the human race? We may know our own body to some degree, but we may not know the symptoms of Lyme disease. And not only are we not smart enough, but sometimes we aren’t honest enough to maintain our health. We may deliberately mis-diagnose our tummy ache, denying the possibility of appendicitis. Solomon says, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”
Be not wise in thine own eyes.
In some ways wisdom parallels humility. One of those parallels lays in perspective. Only an outsider can properly determine if you are humble. The moment you consider yourself to be humble, you will have ceased to be so. And in fact, the more you strive to humble, the less humble you will actually be. Strive to be godly. And similarly, the extent of our wisdom is best observed by people other than ourselves. Proverbs 27:2 – “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.”
“Be not wise in thine own eyes.” I told you a week ago, about the condition of my eyes and my ability to see. I am not alone in this. For example, neither of us can trust what our eyes tell us about our personal level of wisdom. Neither can trust our hearts in its estimation of our wisdom. In fact, this self-evaluation is described with a rather repulsive word elsewhere in the scriptures. Paul said, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own CONCEITS.” He said, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own CONCEITS.” And Solomon added, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” “The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.” “The rich man is wise in his own conceit.” We remember can remember, or we can picture people whom we have considered to be “conceited.” It may not have been their smarts or grades, but conceited people think that they are better than others, better than you, better than they really are. Solomon says, “Don’t be like that person.”
The solution to this rather common problem is to fear the LORD and to depart from evil.
The old non-scriptural proverb says that “we shouldn’t beat a dead horse.” Perhaps it would be more appropriate in this case to say that “we shouldn’t beat a living horse either.” So I’ll just say once again – it is in the fear of the Lord where we find true wisdom. When we know the Lord well, when we love the Lord with all our hearts, and reverently consider the Lord often, there will be no room for personal self-conceit. I think we can say that Paul had a proper fear of the Lord, and in that light he looked at himself, saying that he found no good there.
“Fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” How should we interpret that evil? Of course it refers to the evil of sin. But should we be content to interpret that in some impotently general way? Isn’t it like its cousin – the command to “Be good”? Shouldn’t we be more specific? Perhaps we should connect it to the evil which immediately precedes it – conceit. Depart from that evil of estimating your own level of wisdom. Self-diagnosis is usually the wrong diagnosis.
“Depart” – say good-bye – leave – put some distance between yourself and your pride. You probably remember me mentioning the little girl who fell out of bed one night. Her mother ran into her room and picked her up, not knowing what for sure had happened. Through her sobs, the little girl explained that she was asleep and woke up after bumping her head on the floor. Trying to comfort her daughter, mother, with a laugh in her voice asked, “How did you do that?” The girl had a perfectly logical explanation, “I stayed too close to where I got into bed.” “Fear the LORD, and depart from evil” – be sure to put some distance between yourself and that evil.
It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
I am told that different societies emphasize different parts of the human body in different ways. WE have been raised to suggest that the heart is the center of our lives, emotions and being. More and more, our neighbors are saying that it is the brain which determines who we are. But other societies speak of the kidneys or one of the other organs as their most important part. I don’t know if Solomon is contributing to that debate, but he says what he says. “The fear the LORD and departure from evil, will give you good health.” “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.” Is that the same thing as Proverbs 22:4 – “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life?”
I wonder what the Spirit had in mind when by inspiration He put “navel” on this page? The root idea behind the Hebrew word is “string,” so we might picture the umbilical cord which ties a baby to its mother. But some interpret the word to refer to the “string” which lays behind the navel – the intestines. I am not sure that the difference is important, but each provides their own suggestive illustrations. Perhaps it simply speaks of the core of body – the middle part of our body which ties together all the other parts. When our gut is not well, we are not well – as we have all learned during our few short years of life. The baby with colic; the child with too much watermelon; the adult with Crohn’s disease. When our navel is in trouble, we are in trouble. And spiritually-speaking, when the center of our being is out of sorts, we will be miserable, and we will bring misery to others. But the fear of the Lord and the casting out of conceit will bring health to thy navel. And also marrow to thy bones. Those who have had broken bones know full-well that our skeletal system is the framework of the body. When the femur is broken, we’ll not be able to stand. When your radius is broken, you’ll not be able to pick up your Bible.
Like most budding scientists, I grew up an evolutionist. But today, I cannot conceive of how any thinking person – scientific person – can find faith enough to believe in evolution. There is not a single part of the human body, and certainly not the body as a whole, which makes sense without an immediate and complete creation. In so many ways, if one part of the body was left out, or left to evolve itself into place, human life as we know it could never have begun to exist. And then there are the complexities of individual body parts – for example, the way some of them multitask. Bones are not only the framework on to which our muscles, tendons and ligaments hold, but our major bones are factories for the production of other necessary body parts like blood cells. Some blood diseases are actually bone diseases in disguise. If we don’t have healthy bone marrow we will have leukemia or some other blood disease.
The Hebrew word “marrow” refers to “moisture” or “refreshment. “ And as it is the inside of our bones is entirely different from the outside of those bones. And medical science calls the inside of most of our bones “marrow.” I was pleasantly surprised when I looked that word up on Google. The first definition read, “a soft fatty substance in the cavities of bones, in which blood cells are produced (often taken as typifying strength and vitality).” That is it exactly – that is what Solomon is saying. “The fear of the Lord shall be health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones” – the place of our strength and vitality. And isn’t this what we need? Spiritual strength and vitality?
As we get older we learn the importance of taking care of our bodies. Sadly, sometimes it is too late to implement the right stuff. And even more sad, is the lack of implementing of the right stuff spiritually. And that is why this chapter begins, “My SON, forget not, let not mercy and truth forsake thee.” Young man, now is the time to start – “today is the day of salvation.” “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.” “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” “It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”